Jalen Suggs’ time in Spokane was supposed to be a pit stop to NBA greatness.
Suggs entered the 2020–21 season as a consensus top-five pick in a loaded draft class. His company at the top of those draft boards, Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham and USC’s Evan Mobley, made some noise of their own during this NCAA tournament. Cunningham averaged 19.5 points in two tournament games despite shooting just 26 percent from the field, while Mobley helped lead the Trojans to their first Elite Eight appearance since 2001.
Suggs helped Gonzaga eliminate USC and upped the ante by ending the season of USC’s bitter rivals in historic fashion.
Nearly 30 years to the day after Christian Laettner hit the most famous shot in NCAA tournament history, Suggs joined the former Duke standout in the history books.
Like he did his fellow draft mates, Suggs shined brighter than Laettner. Suggs’ three-point buzzer-beater came in the Final Four (Laettner’s was in the Elite Eight) and, most importantly, kept Gonzaga’s undefeated season alive.
The great sports moments we watch live usually have great origin stories. For example, I watched Kick Six happen live with one of my best friends. I still remember standing in the living room, speechless, looking at him in complete shock as Chris Davis ran into history.
When Saturday’s action began, I was in the catbird seat for both my bracket pools. I nailed three of my Final Four picks — UCLA was my only incorrect selection — and Baylor did its part getting to the title game. Like many people, I picked the Bulldogs to win it all, and I didn’t expect an 11 seed to pester a team that has bulldozed the competition all season long.
As regulation came to a close, I thought about shutting off the game. I told myself I couldn’t bear to watch my bracket hang delicately in the balance on the tournament’s penultimate evening of games. I was going to turn on my PlayStation and play FIFA 21 instead of biting my fingernails down to the bone.
Thankfully, I kept my TV tuned to CBS.
I watched Suggs’ shot at least two dozen times Saturday night, and another dozen or so Sunday morning. I consider myself an expert on the game’s final seconds, so let’s break this thing down. Time stamps are for the video embedded above.
0:02 — UCLA’s Johnny Juzang, the Bruins’ on-court leader, hadn’t touched the ball in overtime. Juzang scored 27 points on the night, easily leading all UCLA scorers. Of course, he has it now, and he’s one-on-one with the chance to tie.
0:04 — Juzang misses! Gonzaga still leads!
0:05 — Never mind. Juzang rebounds his own shot and puts back an easy lay-up to tie the game at 90. Juzang now has a game-high 29 points on 12-of-18 shooting.
0:08 — Gonzaga is wasting no time at all. Suggs receives the inbound pass just outside the restricted area under UCLA’s basket and begins dribbling up the right side of the court. No UCLA player is within 15 feet of Suggs. I get not wanting to foul here, but you’d think UCLA would want at least a little pressure on Gonzaga’s best player.
0:10 — Suggs crosses half-court and begins to pull up for a game-winning shot attempt. UCLA’s David Singleton steps up to guard Suggs, the first Bruins player to get within 10 feet of Suggs on this final play.
0:11 — The ball is in the air and no time is left on the game clock. Jim Nantz’s legendary voice rings over the broadcast: “Suggs, for the wiiiiin!” The horn sounds and the lights around the backboard illuminate as the ball travels toward the cup.
0:12 — Nine players on the court are standing still, watching to see what happens. An undefeated season or an unlikely trip to the national title game hang in the balance.
The 10th player, Suggs, is already on his way to the sideline to celebrate.
HE KNEW IT WAS GOING IN.
0:13 — He was right.
Nantz and Bill Raftery immediately go crazy. Nantz screams, “Oh, yes! Oh, yes!” Raftery just yells incoherently, like most of us who watched it live were doing.
(To wit: I full-throat screamed in joy and started running around my apartment. It was well after 10:00 p.m. local time. I hope my neighbors understand.)
0:14 — Gonzaga’s bench empties in celebration. Suggs is now in full sprint toward the sideline.
0:15 — Not that it was in doubt, but the officials indicate Suggs’ shot did, indeed, count. One official holds his arms up to indicate the shot was good while surrounded by the Gonzaga players who hadn’t yet reached Suggs to start celebrating.
0:16 — Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who said after the game he knew Suggs’ shot was going in, has a befuddled look on his face as he turns to shake hands with UCLA coach Mick Cronin. You can have confidence in your players, as Few espoused in the post-game interview, but Few was all of us in that moment.
0:18 — Nantz keeps saying “Unbelievable!” over and over. Raftery starts giggling uncontrollably before letting out a Ric Flair-esque, “Wooooo!”
Once again, Bill Raftery is all of us.
0:19 — The Bulldogs have finally reached Suggs, who is standing on top of a courtside table celebrating.
0:22 — Nantz can’t help himself and digs deep for a corny pun to button up the moment: “The perfect seasons remains on GO!” Raftery is still giggling before finally saying, “Oh, my God.”
The stakes could not be higher Monday night: Gonzaga is playing for the first national championship in program history while also aiming to become the first team to finish undefeated since the 1976–77 Indiana Hoosiers. The Bulldogs will try to accomplish the feat 52 miles away from Indiana’s campus in Bloomington. They will take on a team coached by Scott Drew, who graduated from Indianapolis’ Butler University.
A storybook season ends with a national championship game rife with narrative. If Gonzaga can finish the job Monday night, Suggs will surely play a major part, and his buzzer-beater to defeat UCLA will go down as the greatest shot in the long, storied history of college basketball.